It's been a while, hasn't it?
I'm forcing myself out of my inadvertent sabbatical to celebrate Earth Day. Like last year, I wanted to share some new things I've started doing to be kinder to our world.
Rainwater collection. The system is mostly all installed (it was waaaaay more complicated than I had thought), and rain over the last several months has kept it full, but we're still making final tweaks and haven't needed to start large-scale watering yet this year. But I've been using chemical-free rainwater for all of my hand-watering since last fall, and with most of our landscaping fairly well established by now (it's been two years since we put most of it in), I anticipate that we will be able to cover maybe half of our watering with rainwater. Of course, that depends on rainfall, but as long as we have some this summer,....
Just in time, too, since Texas's water woes are really getting serious -- so much so that the city could ban watering altogether in the relatively near future (with an exception for rainwater).
Curbside composting. We've been composting for several years, but our neighborhood is now part of the city's year-long curbside composting pilot project. The city delivered a new kitchen bin as well as a 90-gallon cart, which is nice because I can compost things like meat that can't be composted at home.
Although I still compost bunny poop and most of our kitchen scraps in the backyard, I use the city's bin for tree branches, weeds, and other things that I wouldn't want to put in my own compost. Surprisingly, I've filled the cart nearly every week since January.
Organic fertilizer. I've never used chemical fertilizers, and the tragedy at the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, gives us another reason to avoid them (after all, they were developed after World War II out of surplus explosive material -- who wants that in our environment?!). But despite starting a compost pile before the house was even built, I hadn't really ever used much of it in the garden. This spring, I've been spreading it on the lawn to help build richer soil, and I've also been exploring other organic products to enhance the landscaping.
Milkweed. I bought two milkweed plants a couple months ago because the monarch butterflies lay their eggs on milkweed (once hatched, the caterpillars love to eat it).
Hopefully more habitat will be just the thing to restore the monarch population...although it's likely that pesticides are the real problem. So far I haven't seen any monarchs, although we did have a family of swallowtail caterpillars devour my dill plant before moving on to the Italian parsley.
I think this one is green because it's on the verge of cocooning. Or maybe just 'cause it's Earth Day. To see the progression of swallowtail caterpillars, from the teeny-tiny babies that arrived after I planted the dill to this big, happy fellow, check out this informative website.
Organic milk. After learning a bit about how dairy cows are treated, I was motivated to make the switch to organic milk because the USDA requires organic cows to get some pasture time, and I think that's worth supporting. Later, as I read The Omnivore's Dilemma (one of the most fascinating books I've ever read), I learned about myriad other ill effects of factory farming that reinforced my decision, which leads me to...
The farmer's market. My life has changed A LOT over the last year-plus (for the better!), and the confluence of a shift toward more cooking, a desire to eat more organic food, and new habits that put me in different parts of town at different times has made it easy to make the farmer's market a fairly regular part of my routine. I love all the great fresh food I find there, and I love supporting local farmers.
Free-range backyard eggs. No, we didn't get chickens, but we got a new neighbor behind us, and he has five of the happy feathered ladies. And he's very generous with their eggs. Rumor has it that he's moving away this summer, but we're enjoying it while it lasts.
So there you have it. After moving into our super-green house and then adding drought-tolerant landscaping and solar panels, I didn't think there was much more we could easily do to be greener, but we did -- and apart from the rainwater system, none of it has really taken much effort at all.